A Day in the Life

On Tuesday mornings, I set the alarm for 6:45 a.m. to remind me that at 7:00 a.m. our Finance Committee call begins. We use Dave Checketts’ conference call network because he is a member of the committee and has a number already set up for his business calls. Jeff Holt, chair of the finance committee, sets the agenda, but everyone pitches in. We hear reports on recent donations and plot strategies for getting the word out. Jeff keeps an exact running total on how much has been pledged and how much has been received, who made the contribution, has a thank you note and receipt gone out, mailing information, and which member of the committee has a personal connection. We try to be careful about handling money responsibly no matter the amount.

On Thursdays we do lunch. The Executive Committee, which is responsible for putting the Festival together, usually meets at Glen Nelson’s apartment, though to save travel time we are experimenting with Skype meetings. Since Allyson Chard, the managing director, has moved to Annapolis she cannot always be there in person. Here we go over the hundreds of details that go into publicity, ticket sales, reservations, event planning, renting space, etc. Recently we had a launch, where the website was opened and ticket sales began. A hundred details had to be worked out just to get Pay Pal up and running, not to mention the social media releases, post cards, and much else.

About every six weeks, the working committees meet in our apartment on Riverside Drive, by coincidence just three short blocks from the venue for the festival, Riverside Church. Earlier we put out a call for anyone interested in helping out, and in good Mormon fashion, many hands were raised. The committee chairs come together at our place to report on progress and coordinate with the other committees. Some of the best ideas get hatched in our living room as we go over in our minds what will be going on three blocks away at the end of June.

In between times, the email traffic is heavy and constant. Five or ten emails a day come across my screen and I am only seeing a small fraction of the total. Allyson is at the nerve center of all this, keeping track of everyone and thinking through each tiny detail.

To add to all this, we now are thinking of the post-Festival world. Today I received a ten-page attachment from Glen Nelson presenting ideas for 2017-2018. What are we doing next? To help with the plans, we are getting input from a thirty-person Advisory Board made up of engaged patrons, artists, scholars, and arts leaders. We will soon send out a set of proposals for their comments, and in June we will meet to ratify a plan. Our goal is to announce an outline of next year’s program at the Festival.

Overseeing all of this is the Board of Directors. We are now incorporated as the Mormon Arts Center, have a bank account, and will soon have by-laws. The Board of Directors has the last word. We do not foresee any conflicts, however, since it is made up of the same people who meet every Tuesday morning and on Thursdays do lunch.

We think of ourselves as a center where much of the work goes on but that is in touch with people all over. At first, we called this group the National Advisory Board to indicate we were not exclusively New York. But then Campbell Gray, who directs the University of Queensland Museum in Australia joined, and we had to drop “National.” We would like more international representation as time goes on. The Board should help us think broadly. Ideally a concert we plan for Carnegie Hall in New York would be performed in Phoenix or Salt Lake or Bueno Aires. We hope to be a center in the sense of a focal point for activity wherever there are Mormons and art is being produced.

Richard Bushman